Timeline: Crisis-Hit Lebanon

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Timeline: Crisis-Hit Lebanon

Mired in what the World Bank calls one of the worst economic crises since the mid-19th century, Lebanon has designated a new premier to try to break its political deadlock.

As billionaire politician Najib Mikati seeks to form a long-awaited government amid protests accusing him of corruption and cronyism, here is a recap of the country's escalating crisis:

- Dollar shortages -

Anxiety at the lack of availability of dollars emerges on September 29, 2019 when hundreds of people take to the streets of central Beirut in protest against economic hardship.

Among the worst hit are petrol station owners who need dollars to pay their suppliers. But media reports say banks and exchange offices are limiting dollar sales for fear of running out.

- Last straw -

Mass protests follow a government announcement on October 17 of a planned tax on voice calls made over messaging services such as WhatsApp.

With the economy already in crisis, many see the tax as the last straw, with some demanding "the fall of the regime".

The government of Saad Hariri scraps the tax the same day.

But protests continue over the ensuing weeks, culminating in huge demonstrations calling for the overhaul of a ruling class in place for decades and accused of corruption.

Hariri's government resigns in late October.

- Eurobond default -

Lebanon, with a debt burden equivalent to nearly 170 percent of its gross domestic product, announces in March 2020 that it will default on its entire debt of a $1.2-billion Eurobond.

In April, after three nights of violent clashes, then-prime minister Hassan Diab says Lebanon will seek International Monetary Fund help after the government approves an economic rescue plan.

But negotiations with the IMF quickly go off the rails.

- Catastrophic explosion -

A massive explosion on August 4 at the Beirut port devastates entire neighbourhoods of the capital, kills more than 200 people, injures at least 6,500 and leaves hundreds of thousands homeless.

The government says the blast appears to have been caused by a fire that ignited tonnes of ammonium nitrate left unsecured in a warehouse for six years.

Popular anger erupts, after being on hold because of the pandemic.

Top officials are investigated over the explosion, but no politician is arrested.

- Political impasse -

Diab announces the resignation of his government in August after just over seven months in office.

Diplomat Mustapha Adib is named new premier but bows out after less than a month, and Hariri, already prime minister three times, is named in October.

- One of worst crises -

Authorities announce in February 2021 that bread prices will rise by around a fifth.

In June, the World Bank says Lebanon's economic collapse is likely to rank among the world's worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.

Later that month, protesters try to storm central bank offices in the northern city of Tripoli and Sidon in the south, after the Lebanese pound plunges to a new record low on the black market.

Days later the government hikes fuel prices by more than 30 percent.

Medicine importers say in July they have run out of key drugs, and warn of more shortages.

- Hariri out again, Mikati in again -

After nine months of horse-trading, Hariri steps aside on July 15, saying he is unable to form a government.

Mikati, Lebanon's richest man and already twice prime minister, is designated again on July 26, sparking both protests and scepticism.

 

Source: AFP